The north-eastern region of India offers an exciting mélange of cultures and people. The same holds true for the cuisine of the region, which in itself, makes the seven states an apt holiday destination in India. The dishes from this region of India are known for their distinctive flavour and unique ingredients. North-eastern cuisine is an excellent way to relish healthy and hearty food. Although the dishes are meat-dominant, they’re surprisingly light and delicious. Ingredients such as bamboo shoots, Bhut Jolokia chilli, and indigenous vegetables are some of the highlights of the dishes from the region. Most of the recipes use mustard oil, which elevates the overall savouriness of the dish.
In this article, we have listed seven culinary delights from the seven north-eastern states of India. These delicacies will give a sneak-peek into the simple yet vibrant culture of this part of the country.
1. Thukpa, Arunachal Pradesh
Having originated from Tibet, Thukpa is one of the healthy dinners that the Northeast has to offer. The dish has travelled across the Himalayas and has been adapted to local mountain cultures in India, especially Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Thukpa is a staple for Monpa tribe in Arunachal Pradesh—they often have it lunch and dinner. This dish is a wholesome soup that also has handmade noodles, meat, and regional vegetables grown on the hills of Arunachal Pradesh. It is also one of the most sought-after meals that hungry and tired travellers gorge on, on their way back from their expeditions.
2. Maasor Tenga (Assamese Fish Curry), Assam
Translated as Sour Fish Curry, Maasor Tenga is sour and mildly spicy curry, best served with steamed rice. The fish used for this curry is sourced from the rivers of Assam. The sourness in this fish curry comes from tomatoes and green chillies add a punch. Maasor Tenga fish curry is cooked in three stages. First, the cut fish is seared in mustard oil. The second stage involves preparing the zingy broth, and finally in the third stage the fried fish and curry comes together to form one of the best known Assamese dish.
3. Kelli Chana, Manipur
Kelli Chana, one of the famous street foods of Manipur, has a legend behind it—it is said that the dish got its name an old lady named Kelli, who used to sell spicy chana. From there this street delicacy of Manipur has come a long way. Today, it is prepared with flavourful herbs such as coriander and bay leaves that go beautifully with chickpeas. Kelli Chana is usually served on a lotus leaf or banana leaf, which lends a unique, local touch to this dish.
4. Jadoh, Meghalaya
Jadoh is a portmanteau of two dishes from Meghalaya—‘Ja’ means rice and ‘Doh’ means meat in Khasi language. Jadoh is also one of the most popular meals in Meghalaya. Prepared with long grain rice and complemented with delicious pork, Jadoh is healthy and nutritional. The beauty of this dish is, it is majorly cooked in the natural fat from the pork, with minimal or no use of refined oil. This lowers its calorie count when compared to some of the other rice dishes eaten in India. Jadoh is available in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.
Sha Phaley is one of Sikkim’s culinary delights. With roots in Tibet, this dish is a deep-fried dumpling filled with a generous amount of ground beef and cabbage seasoned with spices. These dumplings are crispy on the outside and bursting with flavours inside. Today, Sha Phaley has many versions of it, with different stuffings such as cheese and tofu, making it more suitable for the vegetarians and vegans.
6. Smoked Pork Stew, Nagaland
The smoked pork stew is a Naga’s delicacy that will make you coming back for more. Tribes in Nagaland are known for their smoking and fermentation methods that allow them to preserve food for months when there is no fresh produce available. The smoked pork stew is made from meat that is dried and smoked. It is then chopped into bite-sized pieces before it meets the rich, flavour-intense tomato-based stew. Apart from the pork, there is potatoes, chillies, and seasonal vegetables, in the stew. The stew is finished with salt, as per taste, and a hint of smoke from the pork completes the dish.
Tripuri cuisine is known for the piquancy of its dishes, healthy meals, and unique style of cooking. With minimal ingredients, the Tripura delicacies bring out individual flavours of the ingredients. One of the popular and easy-to-make Tripuri dish is Wahan Mosdeng. This dish is a delicious amalgamation of Wahan: Pork and Mosdeng: ground chilli. Over the years, Wahan Mosdeng has evolved from being a traditional meat salad to a modern fast food dish. The variations of this dish took place in a surprisingly small span. The tender pork meat against the heat of the chilli works brilliantly.
Do try some of these delicacies to experience the best of the northeast and share your favourite north-eastern dish in the comments below!